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tv   Duncan White Cold Warriors  CSPAN  October 10, 2019 8:01pm-8:47pm EDT

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>> good evening everyone per go on behalf the borders bookstore in q2 this evening's event in camillus --dash to
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enhance and improve civic life. we have some events over the next few months that has national book award finalist. for retail - - more information sign up for our e-mail list. we have c-span book tv with us here please know you will be recorded and wait for the microphone and i like to take
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a moment to say thanks and so congratulations. [applause] now i'm pleased to introduce duncan white at the director studies at the university. and as a historian serving as a faculty associate of eurasian studies at harvard
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university. with history or literature here to discuss cold warriors. so we are so pleased to have them here tonight. please me to welcome duncan white. [applause] >> we have five different microphones but i never met a microphone i did not like. congratulations i love that we are presenting on the day of your publication.
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>> with 20 interviews this morning. >> so you call that a group biography so what is the hook. >> so the idea was to have a comprehensive history of the cold war and the cultural cold war and the literary cold war through the collapse of communism. in the idea that i had was to do that somatically.
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that then you might work bad out as a group biography. and then weaving through as much of the story. >> the person that you open with is orwell. so with the spanish civil war. and they were agents and like we know for his journalism. and you have been a journalist.
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and then when they figure out with journalism. so i wonder if, i don't know. >> but that idea is the last possible thing and be so terrible at it but so there is a reason why i have a phd in english. [laughter] there are ways we are thinking about and with these experiences and then to be disenchanted of that and then
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to be really concerned and through stalinism. and that is marvelous trying to be rigorous and disciplined and to tell the story in all complex detail. so he has to go back and think how do i get that across? and that's basically how he told his story to go back and think about the simple most effective way. >> how did you come to that
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topic quick. >> so the book sales and then i thought it was dreadful but and then with the cold war it with that global disaster in one of my friends at school parents were left after the wall came down so to live the ordinary life so i never
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thought of it as something serious but to be fascinated by literature so to be on the fringe of this his cousin nicholas was involved in what is going on and then to bring those studies to bear. and then to the soviet union and how they look through the iron curtain.
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's. >> going to the nato pool. [laughter] that their actual spies that their actual spies. >> now all of a sudden because that we are already deep in the lingo and the logic. so why quick. >> so one of the things with my academic work it could be a little boring at times.
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in that temptation to distance yourself from it. so then to adopt that style that they were experts at and that idea of that narrative. in one of the most sweeping accounts. and as puppets by sinister forces. and that's an easy thing to
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think. and then to be so much more complicated and conflicted. but to look at the writer's perspective to see that that what was replaced and the complexity of the situation. >> and with those arguments in the book it is a narrative that yet suddenly you make these cases and the way corporate politics shape culture.
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but that's more than most. >> yes. good point. and there are marvelous memoirs. and is there partly because and as a fictional model. with those connections between spies and writers.
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and nothing more than what they have been working with and then making stuff up they were delivering false information. were the nazis as they were providing that information. but the spies inventor with that emphasis is not wildly differen different. >> your chapter is amazing and that cultural moment because we are not as familiar with that information campaign. but nothing seems less plausible but you established very early on you are interested of liberty and and
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then i thought i knew what you meant. as these british writers were funded by the cia that then you throw a curveball as a reader and then you talk about the trial which as a person as a mid sixties trial of a writer. and then to be a political.
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and then it's complicated but then i read your statement in a completely different way. so with the soviet union and so what does that say the north vietnamese clicks you have that in the soviet union because there is a pass in the working on those manuscripts. in that work to do complicit.
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and then it was snapped up by magazines that i could counter. and this was ideal propaganda. because at the end of the case and then to be published by the magazines that are cold war propaganda. and then to be complicit with the west. >> and with that question of ideology and culture in that chapter quick.
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>> which is the unbelievable bestseller. transforming into a movie and she moved to paris and married a state department official and was fiercely opposed to the vietnam war. she was quite a young woman. that then as a reporter and then recently there were is missing pages from saigon and she was a tough cookie with
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those euphemisms and pacification and with those us policies. interesting stuff and that's what complicated it for her because she went against the american interest and had to battle her own instincts with the propaganda and at one point she was presented and was told that she didn't take it off and she took it off
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later. and then with the american pows. and wanted to make a point how the pilots were dumb and uneducated and chewed up by the poor education system and went into political description with actually tortured and then allowed to get herself believe it is smart and sharp as her. and with that complicity. >> and then you feel the pull
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from all sides. and with that gendered response. and then here you have her but then to be caught in between these poles. do you feel there are those who navigate that clicks because so many seem stranded now they go to paris and then this is the chapter of 1955 it
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seems like yesterday with the us cultural moment caught up in mccarthy and then you look at the political stage is just very similar to the current moment that it's very difficult to imagine solidarity that can succeed given the roadblocks so now all of a sudden because 2005 was not that long ago. so all of the writers are
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caught in the middle. but he is searching for a way out as some of the leaders as they are all searching for a way out of this bipartisan conflict but the problem was the economic pressure being exerted was is impossible to escape in many ways so he needed readers in the market. he went to paris in indonesia for the conference but that was sponsored by the congress of cultural freedom which he did not know at the time was a cia funded operation so even when he was doing the right thing he was caught up in the
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secret part of the cold war. but it's interesting to look and see how familiar that is. and those that are generated to write it against racist against white people because they are excluded from this famous meeting but yet the where are those echoes of the similar impasses that we have maybe without that ideological divide but what they are tussling against. >> i imagine you get a lot of questions about the current ideological polarization. so i wonder if you were thinking of any residence between the cold war.
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>> and i touch on a couple of these things. i'm not looking down on this idea that but we are in a special and interesting moment. putin was a kgb agent. that legacy is clear to be seen. but the cold war was ideological. why those ideas were so powerful in my books were so important with those changes in technology that were an important aspect of this. but there is no communist regime competing with north korea but everything is on a sliding scale of social democratic capitalism or
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capitalism of china. so that was made very eloquently it's a lot of cold war nostalgia but with yes for the cold war the structure. >> and some things you never get to talk about what you found in the research. >> and that's a little easter
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egg. >> the the decadence. i have no idea. i thought i knew but to be so obsessed and how they were. is just astonishing and it surprised me. and with these figures from history and to see them in the human element is quite shocking. >> one more question. what's next? do you have ideas or what you're thinking about quick. >> i have a book that will go back a little bit further and
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that's those that created a panic in the united kingdom and invading germans everywhere and that's an interesting story to be told. they are interesting stories to be told and how it is disseminated. >> wonderful take questions.
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>> what was the alternative we personally couldn't with the way that this is set up and to me that is fascinating to be is deeply embedded in russian tradition and the reason why because of the cold war that wasn't fully understood.
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in the work of dissidents and i disagree with that. >> from what was discovered have you read it? >> and what we have of that translation of his writing and
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then they left manuscript lying on the desk it took everything else in life that. so that was the german original writers would be fascinating to see what changes there are. >> i don't know but they are publishing. >> if you think about it the french edition was seismic and its impact it sold out and it really challenge people of how
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they were thinking about moscow or the soviet union but all of that was based on the version of the chaotic circumstance. >>. >> i was thinking about this that there were at least two major understandings of culture one as a producer of art and one was a more scholarly culture of how meaning changes over time could you talk about about complicity or repression and how those meetings change over time especially that ideological version of the cold war.
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>> that's a good question. the book itself is that idea of the approach to ideas like oppression and citizenship. so with the implication with institutions and the states with playful interaction and to make that part of the narrative. but in the case of writers it is a theme. and they did have quite a traditional view of truth to
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power and maybe there was a more modest idea or inspiring a larger population not converted just by intellectuals that they did hold traditional the cold war which was slightly ironic anyway about culture. >> with the cold war? >> i would imagine so that in some ways the opposition could be seen as simpler for you for that or against it or the invasion of afghanistan to stand or against it or look at
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the contemporary writer and use it all those dynamics it is much more nuanced of a picture. it's a little harder to navigate i think. >> i read the first five pages so the wall comes down the cold war ends and then there is an explosion of tech. so i wonder if that actually reflects back on the structure
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of your argument? what's the function? i didn't get far enough. >> that they have not been available and it was crazy it was a moment where dozens of these masterpieces are available like doctor zhivago is available but it was a very western book so it was a moment would be hard to imagine what it must have been like to be older than suddenly
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have all of this production but at the same time with the historical evidence of what was publicized. fortunately the lid was put back on not too long after and remained shut. but it was an extraordinarily cathartic moment for the cold war to have this explosion of literature and people reading books everywhere. i cannot remember the name who was the editor of the new yorker? remnick remember just seeing everybody reading all the time. public transport everywhere they were just consuming
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everything that was banned previously. >> you talk about language with regard to the novel so does translation of language come into this at all? you also talk about original manuscripts previously there only translations or other versions. >> yes. allied of energy went into this and in the beginning the translation of animal farm and they produce that with that small edition of the book and attach these to weather balloons floating them over the iron curtain.
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so yes there are many ways translation plays an important part in with the cia and a literary assessment of doctor zhivago. [laughter] and this guy gives this accomplished assessment of the novel. but yes, your facility with english also gave access to a lot of text but that would also bring you under suspicion with western intellectuals and so forth. great question.
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>> this is a difficult question. is the soviet addition of like what hemingway wrote quick. >> i don't know to be honest. i would be surprised if the time wasn't sensitive or talking the late thirties the high of the stall and control. >> but the original translation was prepared shortly after the western addition but it did not circulate and could not be for a long time. >> that's fascinating. >> when was it quick. >> i'm not sure perhaps in the sixties.
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>> yes because they were both sleeping with theodore's wife. [laughter] >> everybody is sleeping with everyone. [laughter] so it is a cool scene. i don't know. so reading your bucket summer vacation and classes haven't started yet. so i'm feeling myself with this espionage and you create that very effectively. >> thank you very much. some of that was a nightmare to write. [laughter] but they genuinely did leave these lives and it was fascinating.
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>> these are great stories. but how did it matter at the end of the day quick. >> that's a good question because the argument is that both sides elevated literature in a way of that utility of the propaganda so how do you measure when the capital of animal farm? but it was also self reinforcing metrics if one side was invested in publishing it's the arms race and that's fascinating so there are those elements of
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that definitive shift in the location of the blog archipelago in that moment that you see attitudes with european communist in a way that i really do think that's the ultimate course. >> thank you for coming out thank you. [applause]
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